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Children of Men

Children of Men is really hard to watch: it’s violent. Unlike too many films (Recently: The Departed), the violence is startling. What’s unforgiving is not gore, though there’s enough of that, but in violence’s surprise and its indiscriminate nature. No character was safe from dismemberment or death; likewise, anyone might suddenly pick up a bucket of rocks and break another character’s teeth. For at least the last hour I sat, muscles tense, the hair up on my neck, on the edge of my seat. I was sick from it; I wish more films were this brutal.

What’s unforgiving, too, is the setting in a world in which no child has been born for eighteen years. Schools having been abandoned, the world is descended into chaos. New York is nuclear waste; Seattle is being sieged; according to the government ads on the transit system, only England is safe from the chaos, which isn’t really true, because it has a policy of deporting all illegal immigrants. The world is essentially hopeless. In some ways the setting is ridiculous and otherwise disturbing: it seems unlikely that, if the world really were to go infertile, it would be women’s infertility and not men’s sterility at fault. After all, it’s so much easier to sterilize men: a touch of radiation here, a case of the measles there. But alas, it’s P.D. James’s novel, and he must have needed something to blame women for, as well as a good reason to assert that sex really needs to be for the sake of procreation. Very Catholic, that.

Anyway, from there is the plot: a pregnant woman is discovered and she must be transported by Clive Owen to “The Human Project,” some secret nongovernmental organization rumored to exist, because if she doesn’t go there she’ll be deported, her baby stolen and used for propaganda. Why Clive Owen isn’t entirely clear—he’s kind of a good-natured ordinary man who used to be an activist and who once had a baby who died—but anyway, he does his duty to get her from London to the coast, in spite of insurrections and explosions and revolutionary groups who want to appropriate the baby for themselves.

It’s a beautifully made film and well told story. What with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and this (and reputedly Y Tu Mama Tambien, but I haven’t seen that), I say Alfonso Cuaron is an exciting director, one whose films are worth seeing for his sake. The fifteen-minute (or whatever) shot is really long and I really don’t see how it was managed, what with extras and explosions all over the place, but it is a marvel.

So go see it.

Aside: I am little concerned, haunted by portent, that I saw this on the same day I began reading The Road.



I really wanted to go see that after reading some good reviews. I checked on it’s UK release and it will play in September…...2006. I guess I’ll have to wait for the DVD.

B and I recently saw Pan’s Labyrinth. I’ll write a review of it after I finish this cursed paper in a week or so. I mention it because it too was a stunningly brutal movie. There was one point where my heart was pounding and I was nearly shaking from adrenalin.

Yes, that! I read about it earlier this week and thought it sounded good. I just watched the trailer, though, and had that nausea I always get when I know something bad, especially something bad involving torture, is about to happen. And, I must remind myself, that was just from the trailer.

To clarify: I mean I wish more films were so brutal precisely because violence should not be glorified or made palatable. There is enough horror in the world without the need to stylize it.

Not that I’m anti-style, of course.


re #2: The torture scenes weren’t as bad as the trailer would make them out to be; they were mercifully cut short. The scene I spoke of was a man simply being beaten in the face with a blunt object until he died.

re #3: The scene was so raw and powerful precisely because it was rendered matter-of-factly and without cinematic superfluities. So I was actually thinking the same thing as you: If movie violence was done like this more often, we might live in a less violent society.